Bali's Other Yoga Destination


This is the best place on earth to advance your practice.

Thanks to Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love—and Julia Roberts’ subsequent portrayal of her in the 2010 film version—almost everyone you talk to seems to have heard of Ubud, Bali’s mecca for yoga, wellness, spiritual healing and, in Gilbert’s case, love. Although the culture-packed Indonesian town is undisputed as a top destination for yogis from all over the world, it’s gotten so big, full and busy that it’s not quite the Zen place it once was. (Tour companies even offer visits to spots included in the movie.) 

Sure, a sweaty 50-person class in the famous Yoga Barn’s beautiful open-air pavilion is an energetic and inspiring experience that’s absolutely worth having. As someone who’s always a proponent of off-the-beaten path options, I believe it’s also worth opening one’s eyes to practice in other spots on the idyllic Hindu island. After spending a week and a half in Ubud on my first trip to Bali, I yearned for the ocean, and discovered a whole other pace, attitude and place to say om.

The Bukit peninsula is the southernmost part of Bali and is known for its incredible surf breaks. The whole island boasts countless spots off the most beautiful white-sand beaches for advanced and pro surfers to rip. Here more than ever I realized surfing and yoga actually go hand-in-hand. Most yogis in this area also surf, and many surfers recognize the benefits of the practice, not only for improved flexibility, balance and strength, but also for the inner spiritual connection that mirrors the experience of being one with the ocean. It’s the perfect combination: both are simultaneously Zen and rigorous, in their own ways.

So, nestled in a villa in Padang Padang, I found myself in the perfect centralized location to several excellent yoga classes and, more importantly, instructors. My Kiwi neighbor recommended checking out the 8am daily class at Temple Lodge, which is set high above the surf in Bingin (less than 10 minutes by motorbike north of Padang Padang), with views of the brilliant blue ocean below and bougainvillea swarming the archways and stone structures. The yoga space here is intimate and romantic. The first time of maybe a dozen I stepped into the indoor-outdoor space, with flowers dripping down from the beams, I felt an instant peace and thought; now this is a place to practice yoga! 

I also learned, however, that a beautiful setting doesn’t always mean a great class. While in Kuta Lombok (the island next door that’s known to be about 15 years behind Bali development-wise), I tried in vain to find a suitably challenging or transcendent class, but after three different sessions, each in places more beautiful than the last, I gave up. The teacher really makes the experience, or breaks it, after all.

At Temple Lodge, Dana was the first teacher I took class from, and I was an instant fan. The California native came to Bali years ago for the surfing, and never looked back. Her practice and voice are strong, and in each session she creates a rigorous flow that really heats up the body. This is not yoga for wimps, but it’s also somehow very accessible for beginners. It was in Dana’s class that I first attempted—and held!—an arm balancing split, understood crow pose, and got comfortable with my forearm balance. Teddy is the other yogi here, and you might walk in, as I did a couple times, to him hanging upside-down in a hammock-like sling, like a Zen bat, meditating before class. (He tends to break down poses a bit more, moving slowly through the vinyasa, correcting form and making adjustments.)

The Bukit peninsula has several other yoga spots, including classes held on an open-air, elevated patio at Blue Heaven, overlooking the famed Padang Padang surf break and beach. While at times traffic—and I use the word loosely as traffic here consists of mostly random motorbikes putting by, and the odd car or truck—noises were a bit distracting, but there’s nothing quite like focusing on the lines of surf swell coming in toward the beach, surfers bobbing gracefully over them, as you hold tree pose.

Another winning yoga spot is the place where, on my last visit, I began to actually get scorpion pose is Uluwatu Surf Villas. I again have Dana to thank for this revelation because she encourages and suggests that practitioners constantly try new inversions and ways to get into them. (Two other excellent instructors teach classes ranging from vinyasa flow and power flow to restorative yoga and stretching/meditation here.) I have yet to find a more peaceful place to practice in Bali than this cliff-front resort swathed in green, rustic wood and blue skies.


My advice: Go early, before taking one of three daily classes, so you can lay in asana and hear the waves crashing below. The surf break here is world-famous, and there might be no greater joy than working up a sweat as we flow through warrior poses and catch a glimpse of a surfer cruising gracefully down the face of a head-high wave, in his own zone of Zen and strength. Except for maybe a 90-minute deep-tissue rubdown at Tara Massage up the road, there’s no better way I’ve discovered to spend $7 and an hour and a half. 

Always in search of the perfect beach, the most daredevil feat, the best meditation spot and the world’s most delectable slice of pizza Kathryn Romeyn is a soulful traveler. Read along on her quest of Wellness Wanderlust, as she goes boldly with an open heart and mind.